Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) on Sunday faulted the re-arrest of Omoyele Sowore by the Directorate of State Services (DSS).
He said the secret service owed Nigerians an explanation for invading the premises of a Federal High Court in Abuja to re-arrest Sowore.
The DSS said in a statement that Sowore “resorted to acts inimical to security” shortly after being released from custody.
“The service is committed to the discharge of its mandate of detecting and preventing threats against the internal security of Nigeria,” the DSS said in a statement by its spokesman, Dr Peter Afunanya.
But, Sagay said: “I agree that the DSS (operatives) have their job. They don’t need the approval of the Presidency to do their job. So, no one should blame the Presidency for anything the DSS does.
“However, the re-arrest of Sowore looks bad on the surface in the sense that the man was released a day earlier, and he was in court the next day to answer the charges and he is arrested.
“I feel that Nigerians are entitled to an explanation. It’s not something you can do and keep quiet. It’s not alright. There is something wrong in that. They could have a good reason, but they should tell us what that reason is.
“They cannot be quiet about it and if they are justified, I will be the first to say yes. But they cannot do it and keep quiet and expect everybody to accept it.”
On DSS, reason for re-arresting Sowore, Sagay said: “The question I have is: the offence they are re-arresting him for, did he commit it after he was released? That is very critical.
“If it is something he had said before, then I don’t see any justification for his re-arrest, because he has been given bail.
“But if it is something fresh – maybe he said something after he was released that constitutes a security risk or is a danger to the country – then they should make it clear so that we are not confused.”
The Presidency described Sowore as “the agitator”, who must be a “person of interest” to the DSS after openly calling for a revolution.
“Nigerians do not need another spate of lawlessness and loss of lives all in the name of ‘revolution’, especially not one that is orchestrated by a man who makes his home in far away New York – and who can easily disappear and leave behind whatever instability he intends to cause, to wit, Nnamdi Kanu. This is a matter for the DSS, acting under its powers,” it said.
Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa (SAN), expressed surprise at the Presidency’s response “on a matter that is already subjudice.”
According to him, the Presidency seems to be embarking on a media trial against Sowore.
Olu-Adegboruwa said the Presidency disrespected the courts by commenting on a pending case.
He said Sowore remains innocent until proved guilty.
“It is a little surprising and worrisome that the Presidency seems to have embarked on a media trial, a matter that is already pending in court,” he said.
Besides, he said Sowore could possibly not have escaped since his passports had already been seized.
“Somebody has already been granted bail by a court, his international passport has been deposited with the court, and he has been restricted to the city of Abuja, according to the terms of the bail.
“How does such a person escape? He has no means of travelling and then he’s already on bail,” Adegboruwa said.
He called for a meeting between the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation to consult on possible steps to be taken to protect judges and the courts from further invasion.
He also wants the DSS to be made to account for the events of December 6 and for immediate disengagement of the DSS leadership and all its officers involved in the invasion.
“Henceforth, let the Bar get its members who are involved in any government to be held accountable for any breach of the rule of law by the government and its officers and agencies,” Adegboruwa said.
A rights group, the Access to Justice (A2Justice), condemned DSS’ action in a statement by its Convener Joseph Otteh and Programme Officer, Daniel Aloaye
“A government that promised to abide the rule of law now virtually has the rule of law, largely unpretentiously, under the jackboot, defying numerous orders of courts,” it said.
The group said a government using economic diplomacy to attract foreign investment to create jobs shoots itself in the foot by its autocratic domestic behaviour.
“Investments and capital are hardly attracted by environments where the rule of law is absent or where courts are systematically disrespected or trampled upon,” A2Justice said.
The group urged the judiciary to fight for its life and refuse to be cowed.
A2Justice urged Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad to convene an urgent “Save Nigeria judiciary” meeting of judicial officers to explore ways of responding to both the escalating incidence of disrespect of the courts.